The investigation of the Istook Amendment, the provision in the omnibus spending bill allowing committee chairmen and staffers to peruse income tax returns, has taken on a life of its own. It's another example of the "mistakes were made" syndrome, a Washington disease by which something bad occurs but no one is responsible. As the Washington Post reports:
"On Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) referred to the provision as the "Istook amendment," and congressional aides said it had been inserted at the request of Rep. Ernest J. Istook Jr. (R-Okla.), who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the IRS.
But yesterday Istook said in a written statement that he had been left in the dark about the provision: "I didn't write it; I didn't approve it; I wasn't even consulted. My name shouldn't be associated with it because I had nothing to do with it.""http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A5738-2004Nov22.
This syndrome has probably been around since the founding of the Republic, but has become epidemic and endemic since Iran-Contra when President Reagan admitted that "mistakes were made", but never identified who made them.
Finding the author of the Istook Amendment should not require Sherlock Holmes or a blue-ribbon commission. Some individual typed the provision. Some individual requested the amendment. It will be a test of the Republican House leadership to find out who. Maybe they could hire Ken Starr...